My most favorite Chinese take-out meal is Sesame Chicken. The thick, syrupy sweet sauce; the crisp, fried shell of deliciousness on each bite-size piece of chicken; the toasty sesame seeds…I can’t resist. I try not to have it much anymore because, well, none of those descriptors add up to a healthy meal. There’s hardly a substitute for the deep-fried original, but I love this (much healthier) slow-cooker version. It has all of the flavorful essence with none of the terrifying, time-consuming, unhealthy frying or the tooth-aching sweetness. And you can make it in your slow cooker, which is arguably the easiest way to make anything.
The chicken is tender and flavorful from simmering for hours in the sauce, and the sauce itself has a lovely balance of sweet and savory instead of the near-cloying sweetness you might be used to. Here, instead of painstakingly frying bite-size pieces of chicken, you just place whole chicken breasts in your slow cooker, pour the simple sauce mixture in, and cook for 3 to 4 hours. Then, take out the chicken and shred into bite-size pieces, cook down the sauce a little, and serve. Throw on some steamed broccoli, green onions, and toasted sesame seeds, and you’ve got yourself a healthier, cheaper version of take-out. I love using quinoa for rice whenever possible, but you can serve over regular or brown rice if you prefer.
Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken
Adapted from The Comfort of Cooking
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup agave syrup or honey*
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce (natural, no salt added)
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes**
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup water
- 1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 cup quinoa or rice (optional)
- 2 cups broccoli florets (optional)
- Place chicken in slow cooker and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper.
- In a medium bowl, combine onion, garlic, agave, tomato sauce, soy sauce, oil and red pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or high for 2 hours.
- Remove chicken to a cutting board, leaving sauce. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside. If using, prepare quinoa or rice according to package instructions and steam broccoli florets.
- In a small bowl, dissolve 4 teaspoons cornstarch in 1/3 cup water; add to crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Cover and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes, or until slightly thickened.
- Add shredded chicken back into sauce. Serve over quinoa, top with steamed broccoli, scallions, and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
*If you prefer a sweeter sauce, you can add an additional 1/3 to 1/2 cup agave syrup or honey.
**You can increase or decrease the amount of red pepper flakes depending on your spice preference. For kids, consider reducing the amount to 1/4 teaspoon or omitting.
Without quinoa & broccoli:
With quinoa & broccoli: